A recent health event has meant I’ve had to reconsider the direction of my life on all fronts.
I have a heart condition, which has suddenly deteriorated, and I’ve made the decision not to have surgery. It was diagnosed several years ago, and I have known that I would need to make a decision regarding surgery for a long time. Generally the condition gets worse gradually, and mine was following the usual path until last month. After a routine scan I was held back and the registrar asked to speak to me. I wasn’t expecting the news at this stage, so it has been a shock. Creating the space to speak with my nearest and dearest has been my priority.
My spiritual beliefs have been the bedrock of my decision to allow my life to follow its natural course. I feel a deep sense of peace with my decision.
What I want right now is to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible. When I consider my future a few things are important to me. My friends and family, photography and study. I had planned to move on to studying for a degree in photography, but I no longer think that this is appropriate for my health and wellbeing, so I have decided to alter my direction.
Naturally I will still make photography and continue with personal projects, but I’ve decided to study for an Open Foundation in Creative Writing with the Open College of the Arts. I like to write, and I combine photography with my writing, especially when producing photo-essays. Converting to creative writing will minimise the stress, and it also means that during those times when I’m less able to be physically active, I will still be able to be meaningfully occupied.
Quality of life is the most important thing whilst I allow the cycle of life to play out. Daily I ask myself “What can I do today that will bring meaning to my life, and give me the opportunity to create value and culture?”
On Friday afternoon I took myself off to Lewisham Arthouse for an exhibition called Why Do It Together When You Can Do It Alone, followed by a talk Getting There, The Highs And Lows Of The Journey.
The talk was predominantly aimed at post grads, but I attended because I felt I would benefit from hearing what practicing artists had to share of their own experience. I’d like to make a career out of my photography and art, and the more exhibitions and talks I attend, the more I will learn and develop.
The discussion were by Effie Paleologou (artist and educator), Sunil Shah (artist, curator and writer), and Jack Lewdjaw & Karanjit Panesar (artists, co-directors of east bristol contemporary).
Points of note from the discussion
Maintain critique groups, continuous critique can be the difference between success and failure
Work with others, whether this be traditional collaboration, lighting, make-up or friends
Ideas can flow and develop with external ideas
Find your own voice
Think about how the quiet voice can find a space
If a resource is lacking in your community then make it happen yourself
Answer open calls
Money will be tight, is there a way to work alongside others
Collectives aren’t for everyone, but ask yourself is there a group relevant to your practice
Points of not from A Rumour Reached the Village
A Rumour Reached Thhe Village was one of three collaborative pieces by different groups of artists. I chose to focus on this exhibit for three reasons. The artists had pulled together a cohesive piece of work which stood apart from the other two, because Sarah-Jane field, an artist and OCA degree student was one of the artists, and time constraints.
My initial impressions
Packing crate used as platform, circular nature represents, earth, nature, community, inclusion
Creates packing stamps signify humanities impact upon nature
Perspex sheets partially cover some of the work – what we present outwardly v what we keep hidden
Organic and man made items – village/rural/cottage industry
Use of technology reminded me of remote cultures where tech becomes a source of information and connection – links back to rumour
Rumours can bring hope, excitement, interest and suspicion
Opon first viewing the objects, photographs and text appeared disparate in nature, but stillness and consideration brought me a sense of cohesion. I began to imagine a small African village in which different roles and activities were played out for the overall good of the community. One home may be making pottery, another sourcing the plants used for medicine, the bottles could have a medical use. One of the homes may have a TV or computer in which everyone gathers around. A community forms in which each of the members have a role.
“A Rumour Reached the village is a collective enquiry that began with a role-playing game set in an imagined community riven with accusations of witchcraft. Over three months, six artists exchanged challenges and responses, out of which common themes emerged: loops and circles, colonies and growth, architecture and story telling. The culminating installation is a settlement of images, objects, moving image and living cultures, questioning the stories and materials on which communities are built. ” (Why do it together when you can do it alone? p2)
Collaborating with other artists is something that I would like to do more of. It was one of my goals for the year ahead, and I have achieved it in a small but significant way. Collaborative working forces me to step out of my creative comfort zone, I’m forced to think outside of my self-created box. I’d really like to collaborate with other artists more frequently.
A Rumour Reached the Village was created by Sarah-Jane Field, Michael a Lahat, Rowan Lear, Eva Louis Jonas, Joshua Phillips and Christel Piikaer Thompson
The world-wide Autumn Uprising protests by Extinction Rebellion began on October the 7th. Extinction Rebellion state “We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.” (1)
This essay will explore some of the scientific evidence, state the three demands of Extinction Rebellion and express some of the reasons that members of the public have decided to protest in London with Extinction Rebellion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) back up what Extinction Rebellion state. Joyce Msuya, the Acting Executive Director, UN Environment, writes “In this drive towards a green economy, greater sustainability and the hope that we can thrive rather than survive, there has never been a more critical moment than now. The science and the data are crystal clear on the multitude of challenges that we face, but also the small window of opportunity we have to turn things around.” (2) The report goes on to say “The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by observations of increases in global temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and increased environmental degradation.” (3)
Scientists, world leaders, the media and the public have known about global warming and climate change for many years, but over the past six to twelve months the terminology has changed. Instead of hearing about global warming and climate change, the message has altered to climate emergency and global heating.
Anon (photo above) says “I remember in the 1970’s, when I was a teenager, hearing somebody on some talk show, speak about global warming, and I remember as a kid thinking ‘what is this all about’, and here we are almost 40 years later, and now it’s a reality.”
In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote” The Worlds Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (written by Henry Kendal and signed by over 1,700 scientists). It highlighted and warned about the irreversible damage that human beings are causing the natural world. The report states “Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand. Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency or delay in facing the threats.” (4)
Almost every day the media has a new report based upon a recently released piece of scientific research, often declaring that the state of the ecology is more precarious than previous models had shown. A recent study by Eric Rignot found that “Antarctica now sends six times more ice plunging into the sea each year than it did in 1979.” (5)
The rate of climate change has even evoked fears within the scientific community. Professor Sir David King stated as much to the BBC recently and his fears were supported by other climate scientists. (6)
Marlowe Hood wrote an article which was titled “Earth warming more quickly than thought, new climate models show.” Hood explains how continued burning of fossil fuels are warming the environment at an alarming rate, and that global heating will happen at a higher rate than expected, and to reach the Paris Agreement global warming cap of less than 2 degrees Celsius is increasingly unlikely, and unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, then global warming could reach 7 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels by 2100. Hood notes that “With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the world is coping with increasingly deadly heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones made more destructive by rising seas.” (7)
Mike, who had travelled from Cornwall to be with Extinction Rebellion for one week said “The rate of change is rapidly accelerating, crisis is closer than most would realise.”
Evidence of the climate emergency are seen in global temperature rises, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreats, decreasing snow cover, sea level rise, declining artic sea ice, extreme events (wildfires, tornados, rainfall, heatwaves, blizzards, ice storms, dust storms, droughts (8)) and ocean acidification (9)
The evidence is becoming clearer each day. It would be unfair to say that governments are not acting, but it also shows that the action taken is minimal, and not in line with what is required to limit global CO2 emissions quickly enough to prevent a planetary catastrophe. These actions have also only decreased the United Kingdom’s CO2 consumption by 10% (CO2 emissions have reportedly been cut by 42%. CO2 emissions are the amount of CO2 by national industrial activity and consumer usage, whereas CO2 consumption includes the CO2 produced elsewhere for goods and utilities that are imported). (10)
It is the lack of credible action by the UK Government, along with the failure of the Government and the media, which have fuelled Extinction Rebellion’s Protests around the world, and in London in April and October 2019. The failure to take appropriate action is why Extinction Rebellion feel that civil disobedience is the only course which could push the Government into adopting suitable climate policies.
Willy, an environmental scientist with Extinction Rebellion believes the Government is fully aware of the action they need to take, but are only paying lip service too. He says “There is a disconnect from what we know and how we act, civil disobedience seems to be the only way we can deal with the urgent crisis.”
Extinction Rebellion declare “We believe the government has failed to understand the severity of this crisis. We believe that we must now take radical action to reduce the very worst effects of climate breakdown and, in doing so, reform and extend our broken democracy. We therefore have three key demands: 1/ the government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. 2/ the government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2025. 3/ the government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” (11)
The protests in London have been mass, non-violent civil disobedience and have had a diverse following. Protestors have included scientists, ecologists, MP’s, the medical profession, and people from all generations, races and socio-economic backgrounds. Doctors for Extinction Rebellion marched from Lambeth to Trafalgar Square on Saturday. Jo from Doctors for Extinction Rebellion explained that their March was in relation to air pollution in the UK. She stated that “Over 40,000 people per year, in the UK, die as a result of the air pollution which is way beyond legal levels.”
David Boyd, the UN’s special representative on human rights and the environment “criticised the UK government for ‘failing its citizens by producing air quality plans so weak that they breached its legal duty’.” (12)
It is of note that respected medical professionals who have flourishing careers are willing to be arrested because of their concern about the lack of urgent action by the government. This highlights the seriousness of the climate emergency, and demonstrates that the crisis is not in some distant future. People around the world, and in the UK are dying now.
The civil disobedience by the protesters in London has seen people block major roads around London including Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Millbank and outside of The Bank of England.
Marjorie expressed her views on civil disobedience, stating “We’ve been writing letters, talking to our MP’s for decades, nothing has changed. We’ve got to do something to make them act.” Marjorie’s views are precisely the reason Extinction Rebellion has chosen the civil disobedience method. This is a technique inspired by the action and writing of Henry David Thoreau, and most was most notably evidenced by Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. (13)
Extinction Rebellion state “We have to be clear. Conventional campaigning does not work. Sending emails, giving money to NGO’s, going on A-to-B marches. Many wonderful people have dedicated years of their lives to all this, but it’s time to be honest. Conventional campaigning has failed to bring about the necessary change. Emissions have increased by 60 per cent since 1990 and they are still going up, increasing by 2.7 per cent in 2018. Looking at that thirty years of appalling failure, the reason is clear. The rich and powerful are making too much money from our present suicidal course. You cannot overcome such entrenched power by persuasion and information. You can only do it by disruption.” (14)
Non-violent civil disobedience does interrupt the normal ebb and flow of life in a city. It has an impact upon people’s livelihoods, businesses and has an impact upon the economy. It is believed that this kind of action will make life so uncomfortable for the government that they will be forced into taking substantive action on the climate emergency.
Dave, a member of the public and not linked to Extinction Rebellion, and who wasn’t protesting had a positive view of the protests. He said “It’s a good way to promote change. Change doesn’t necessarily happen without some kind of moving force. It’s got to be done I think. The fact that people are willing to be arrested shows that serious change is needed, if it means that much to people.”
The level of policing is another interesting facet of this March. If we cast our minds back to the Poll Tax riots in 1990, we note that despite the protests being violent there were only around 400 arrests. This was despite the police noting that around 3,000 of the 200,000 protesters had committed acts of violence. (15) Extinction Rebellions Autumn Uprising has seen over 1,750 arrests. It’s hard to get one’s head around why a non-violent and peaceful protest has led to this disproportionate level of arrests. Anon, quoted earlier in this essay, went on to say “it’s a good sign actually, for these kind of movements, when that starts to happen, it sucks but it’s a good sign. It means it’s starting to ruffle the right kind of feathers.”
Despite the argument that it is too expensive to immediately take action to achieve the Paris Agreement figure of 2 degrees C, the reality is that, worldwide, there would be a saving of around double what was spent. Climate change is expensive in terms of human suffering, sickness and death, these have major impacts upon the economy, as do intervening in and clearing up after wildfires, droughts and other climate disasters, not to mention the civil collapse, civil war, displacement, supporting refugees and managing immigration. The Co-Chairs message in GEO 6 states that “The health benefits from reduced air pollution of achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target could be 1.4 – 2.5 times the cost of mitigation, the higher figure involving benefits of $US 54.1 trillion for a global expenditure of $US 22.1 trillion. (16)
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney expressed similar concerns this week during an interview with the Guardian, saying that “Companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt, the governor of the Bank of England has warned.” The same article went onto state “The Bank of England has said up to $20tn (£16tn) of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively.” (17)
The scientific eveidence is clear. We must sieze this small window of opportunity to take the drastic action required. If we do not, then we are walking face first into an irriversible ecological catastraphe, which will make it impossible for humans to survive on this planet.
It is clear that we are now in the middle of a climate emergency. People and animals are dying, ice sheets are melting and fires are burning. We are walking towards mass extinction and causing irreversible harm to our only home planet. If we do not act now then it will be too late.
Last night the met police used a section 14 order banning all protests in relation to extinction rebellions autumn uprising.
Despite this, Extinction Rebellion planted a caravan outside of Mi5 on Millbank this morning. Two UK doctors glued themselves to the caravan in protests at the Government’s failure to act on air pollution. The police are on the scene en mass, and they are stopping and searching people entering the area.
I have to say that I am experiencing that wonderful warm glow of having tried something new. Look, it was messy, I have no interview technique. Listening and hearing some while, whilst considering future questions is bloody hard work. I don’t know how people do it.
But the point is, I’ve just done it. Extinction Rebellion are a group whom I believe in their sound, rational philosophy. If we don’t act now then it will be top late. Armed with my OMD EM 10 MK III and the Mzuiko 14-42 lens, I went to Trafalgar Square and have interviewed two people and taking their portraits. Over the next few days I will repeat the process, and then write up my report forThe Sociological Mail
The report will be written in the style of my photo-essay’s, but will also include quotes from those who I have interviewed. It’s the interviewing that gets me excited. It’s been a joy to interview Mike and Willy today.
Photographically, photo-journalism has not been a genre that I’ve felt an affinity for, but I can see how it dances around with the kind of photography of which I’m passionate, but I can now see potential.
Face-to-face support for those who no longer feel life is worth living
The Listening Place is a London based charity who provide face to face support for those who feel life is no longer worth living. I do not believe that I would be alive if it hadn’t been for the support of The Listening Place.
My initial contact was a self referral over the telephone, followed by a face to face assessment at Meade Mews. It felt more like an informal chat about my current difficulties.
The next step was recieving a phone call to confirm that I was being offered support, and a date for the first session. Sessions are once a fortnight, same day, same time and with the same volunteer. After six sessions there is a review to see whether support is still required.
It’s OK to arrive early and sit in the small but beautiful gardens, and I’ve needed time after a session to sit in the peace and collect my thoughts before getting on with the rest of the day.
My mental health has taken a nose dive recently. I’m coming out of it now, but it’s been unbearable. If it wasn’t for the support of The Listening Place then I would have ended my life, I had plans to.
This relapse has built up slowly over a few months, and it began with an increase in anxiety and paranoid thinking. Whenever I heard sounds or talking from nearby buildings I believed that the people in those homes were talking about me, and planning to kill me.
It’s been so intense that I have been too afraid to stay in my home during the day, and I would go to bed and wake up full of anxiety. When I wasn’t experiencing paranoid thoughts I was thinking of how I could kill myself.
I’ve been so exhausted by the anxiety, paranoia and suicidal thoughts, and this rose to a crescendo at the beggining of last week. I’m grateful that my friends, The Listening Place and the mental health crisis team have been there to support me.
One of the most positive aspects is that I have been able to nurture myself. Not perhaps in the traditional sense, but it’s worked. I accepted that I could not stay in during the day, so I took myself out. I’ve been to so many places, Wood Green, Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Tottenham Hale, Walthamstow Wetlands, Stave Hill Eco Park, London Wetlands, Clapham, Hammersmith, Trafalgar Square. I also visited my cousin, and I’m going to stay with a friend shortly. My favourite trip was to Heathrow Airport. There’s an area of grassland near the south runway which is used by many to watch the aircraft come and go. I feel guilty for liking aircraft when I know how much damage they do to the environment, but I do like them, and the day relaxed me. I’ve also been meeting my daily calorific need and I’ve cut out caffeine.
It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself, to be honest about how much I was struggling, and to seek support, but I’ve done it. I’ve also found that if I feel unsafe at home then I put wax earplugs in. They block the surrounding noise and that helps a lot. I’ve felt such an urgent need to leave home that I’ve barely done any washing, and no housework at all.
But things are easing now. I’m still experiencing some paranoia, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but the intensity has lessened. Life has been so painful, but I’ve created peace and calmness by going out to these places. Photography has been my bearer of peace. Thank goddess that it provides me with such an escape. I’m feeling very grateful, and you know what – I’m proud of how much effort I have put in to survive.
The Listening Place is a London based charity which provides face to face support for people who feel that life is no longer worth living.
I haven’t signed up for the Undergraduate BA Hons Photography degree with The Open College of the Arts as yet (January), but I’m aware of the first assignment. With this knowledge I’m preparing some preliminary research.
My photography will take place in an area of London which is known as the Square Mile (also known as The City). My initial idea was to explore the disparity between visible wealth and poverty. However, with my left wing views its easy to discriminate against what my idea of the wealthy are. I’m fascinated by people and I want that fascination to be explored more fully during this assignment.
Browsing some books for sale in a church I noticed one called “The City – The Traditions And Powerful Personalities Of The World’s Greatest Financial Centre” which I will use as the starting point of my research.
Fig. 1. The Bank Of England (1982) “The Chief Gatekeeper and the Assistant Gatekeeper dressed in full livery and carrying the staff of office, in the entrance hall of the Bank of England.”
My research will include “Humans Of New York Stories” by Brandon Stanton. This work becomes relevant as I aim to make portraits of the people whom I encounter and involve a brief interview so that I can present image with text about the person.
This post is at the beginning of my research and I will update this as I progress.
Figure 1 Lowe, J and McLachlan, S; 1982; The Bank Of England [Photo]; In Lowe, J and McLachlan, S; 1982; The City – The Traditions And Powerful Personalities Of The World’s Greatest Financial Centre; London; Quartet Books LTD; pp 94